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Mirror Black
Cain & Quartermaine 1-B
© 2022 James LaFond
Amtrak Coastal Starlight, Gina Ramona
An Autumn Thursday
“I feared, for he was so strong,
that he would ruin the sacred truth in song.”
-Andrew Marvel, 1668, on John Milton’s Paradise Lost
Gina had been run out of Oakland by the crime. Things were getting bad. At the end of her walk from the Waterfront Hotel to the train station, two black guys chased her right past a cop who did nothing, intent on rape, she thought. She discarded her travel bag, dropped it, her lap top and dress clothes all in there.
Having only her purse left to her, Gina ran. Her feet would not have saved her from these two, but her last belongings did. Looking teary-eyed over her shoulder as the two thugs picked up her bag and began walking back to Jack London Square, Gina noticed with a pang of belittlement, that the big redneck cop grinned at her plight, that he had mean eyes for her and was on the side of the thugs. [0]
Minutes later, having gained the rail platform as the train was being boarded, Gina thought hopefully—if a forced hope—that she at least had her purse, bank card, phone and emergency makeup and hygiene kit.
The coach door ahead was handled by a very fat and tall black man, who smiled nicely to her and scanned her ticket, which she pulled out of her purse with shaking hands. He gave her a seat slip, “Seat 36, Miss, right at the top of the stairs. You have a blessed trip.”
“Thank you so much!” chirped Gina, so glad that she was being confirmed as a good non-racist person by this man.
Gina was last to board. When she got upstairs and found her seat, she saw that it was occupied by a large black woman, kind of pretty, with big hoop earrings. An older, used to be pretty, white woman, in the window seat, sat next to the black woman, who had taken Gina’s assigned seat. [1]
“Miss, miss, this is my seat, see, I have the number,” pleaded Gina.
“You must be mistaken, girl,” dismissed the lounging woman, snacks laid out on the seat tray before her, I-phone charging, a Jack & Coke in her hand.
A man ahead of Gina was making another man move out of his assigned seat.
‘How nice it must be to be a man,’ she mused, then panicked.
“I’m not losing my seat. The train is full. I paid for this seat.”
The women, both of them rolled their eyes at Gina and the white woman said, “The conductor will be by. Surely they made a mistake. This is Mia from Los Angeles. I’m Remmy.”
Mia and Remmy then continued their conversation and Gina noted how well dressed they were, what nice hair dos they had, that she herself had cut her own hair in a pretty lame bob and that her Oakland A’s hat and hoody and worn jeans and old blouse where not helping her here.
The train rolled on as Mia and Remmy chatted about what Gina could not hear. For her ears were ringing the song of anxiety and stress that afflicted her so in such situations.
The car attendant, a big, well-groomed man, came to Gina, “Miss, what is the problem?”
Mia spoke, “This woman wants my seat. That man at the station fucked up for sure. I ain’t movin’.”
Gina held up her ticket and her seat slip. The man looked at them and said, “I’ll be right back with the conductor.”
“Bitch, you need to find your own seat,” hissed Mia, who at least had a name. Gina noted, with a pang, that no one cared to know her name.
“I’m a ticketed passenger! I paid…” whined Gina.
“What kinda racist shit is dat! I black so I didn’t pay? You gettin’ racial up in here, bitch!”
“No, no, I’m not racist. I have black friends!”
Mia smacked her lips at Gina and Remmy chimed in, “We might think that we aren’t racist. But we can’t help it. The best we can do is make amends for the crimes of the past by giving up some of our inherent privilege.”
The big attendant and the tall, thin conductor, two obviously college educated white men, came to Gina, checked her ticket and slip and said, “Miss you’ll have to stay in the viewing car.”
Gina looked at the place above the seats where all of the seat slips were, each with three letters. There was one for the window seat that was marked SEA for Seattle, and none for the aisle seat that was supposed to be hers.
“Sir, I am a ticketed passenger. If you over booked the train why doesn’t she have a seat slip? Is she even a ticketed passenger?”
“Racist!” snarled Mia.
Remmy looked up in disgust, “What a thing to say!”
“Where is her ticket?” gasped Gina. “You checked my ticket three times!” she gushed. “You haven’t checked her ticket once!”
“I ain’t movin’ my black ass—oh no! En ain’t no racist bitch takin’ my seat—hell no!”
“Miss,” said the conductor as he put his hands on her shoulders, “come this way. This is supposed to be quite time after ten. It’s already midnight with the delay. We’ll find you a seat in the morning.”
So he commanded her, gently, as he led her back to a car that was mostly empty, with a few older men snoring. The attendant joked in an apologetic whisper, “This is open all night, where husbands who snore are banished by wives.”
Gina numbly complied, “And where white trash girls are sent when welfare mamas need a free ride.”
The conductor squeezed her shoulder until she winced, “Miss, we have been very patient with you. If you are making accusations, you can make them at the next stop, and I guarantee you’ll never ride Amtrak again.”
“I can’t believe this is happening to me!” she bubbled as she was eased down into a seat by the attendant, who began to say something comforting to her until the conductor hissed, “Davis!” and the kinder of the two white girl haters hustled down to the gap in the seating where stairs went below to the cafe. There they hushed and huddled, the two big men, younger by a few years than her 35, closed ranks against her, pointing all the weight of the government at Gina Ramona.
Gina sat numbly, looking into the night, her seat facing outward in mockery of her spurned plight.
Came the inward curating of her woes, always conducted by Granny Gee, who had assured her that marriage was her only hope, and reminded her at every moving frame of her life that her best looks were past her and she had failed to cash in on being young and pretty and land a husband who she could milk like a cash cow. Aspects of a life gone from bad to worse, were viewed in the empty theater of her mind as Granny sat besides her, shaking her head in that ‘I told you so’ manner:
-unemployed because she would not fuck her lesbian boss at the wine bar with a dildo.
-also because she would not suck the black bouncer’s dick at the strip club where she tended bar,
-also because she would not get the vaxx and lost the coffee bar job,
-also for lacking the confidence to dance at the strip club that did not need another bar tender,
-homeless because her boyfriend kicked her out for lack of money,
-headed back to Rugby North Dakota, where her worn seven of a face and still shapely body, should be able to make a living selling her ass, to white guys at least. At least then she could be near Dad without having to actually live with meth-head Mom.
‘Am I a racist? I was a whore when I was 17 and would be doing fine in Oakland if I could have sex with women and black men...but I just can’t. That all seems too weird. And how long will that last? In ten years, that is if I don’t lose a front tooth, hardly anybody will want to fuck me.’
Such were the closing images of her nightmare future, her daymare past fading away aboard this nightmare train…
As the lights of Emmeryville shone in the Bay Area night and the metal monster stopped once again to board and disgorge its meaty wards, sleep finally found Gina and dragged her to a North Dakota trailer, where tattooed Ed Munson sat cleaning his gun and counting his money while a dirty roughneck with oily and begrimed hands finger fucked her with his filthy fingers, all on the same dirty couch or bed. [Where Ed used her, the customers relegated to the couch.]
So did Gina dream of a return to the past she once fled, feeling perhaps lucky that she slept not in a bed, but curled up on three futuristic seats that faced out of the train window onto the never distant and ever returning night.
“Mister Quartermaine,” came a grinding old voice from behind her. Gina opened her eyes, looking into the blackness of the Northern California night as the train threaded through mountain passes.
‘That voice is odd, like from an old movie,’ thought Gina as she looked into the window become a mirror. For the soft ceiling lighting and the dark and mountainous night contrived to reflect the image of the speaker, in outline, behind her, from the glass panel that was the viewing car sidewall.
He was tall and wearing a not-quite-a-cowboy hat and looking to his side, speaking to a military rucksack, “I do name this a train of inequity.”
His chin was strong and clean shaven, his nose long and straight, his hair long and cut along the frame of his hat, falling about his coat collar.
A voice, that raised the tiny hairs on the back of Gina’s neck shocked and intrigued her, “Yaas Master,” came the West Indian accent in a rich voice, seeming to emanate from that rucksack, “of pointed iniquity I do assay.”
The English accent continued to come from the tall hatted man, seeming to be in a trench coat and to sit a bit too tall in the seat, “The poor wench is yet near to fair and the knaves have pitched her like a slattern out the tavern door.”
‘Are they speaking about me?’ Gina wondered.
“Yaas, Girl, Captain Master, o’ mine hates of injustice,” spoke the rucksack.
The English voice hissed a long stern whisper, “Avast, Mister Quartermaine, assure the wench that Hate abides not here, justice only we seek.”
‘This is such the weird dream,’ shivered Gina, closing her eyes, afraid the train glass was playing tricks on her half sleepy mind.
The West Indian voice soothed in the foreground as the train clattered in the background, ‘Weird are the wiles of Night to set wrong right.’
Gina shivered in her thin hoody.
The English voice sounded behind her, “Without even a shift the constables o’ wrong.”
Gina squeezed her eyes tighter, hoping the ringing in her ears might rise to a crescendo to drown out the dream speakers, who she was convinced now were not behind her.
A pop, and clank and clomp, as if a great toy doll walked on stiff jointed stilts, sounded behind her with a gusty husky whisper in that English accent that seemed so odd and out of place, “Grateful am I, Mister Quartermaine—a time gone a wench near to same did a captain hard fail to guard.”
Heavy boots stopped behind her she heard, and felt it in the hard plastic arm of the seat, which did vibrate with each step. Afraid to open her eyes as she shivered in the cold night before the dark window, a warmth descended upon her, covered her in a coarse cloth. For as she squinted her eyes not to open, a rough cloth brushed her bare hands where they poked from her light hoody, and brushed too her cold cheek.
A big bony set of hands—and Gina knew well the feel of a man’s hands—then pressed the blanket unseen to her shoulders with a gentility she had never experienced from a man.
A rattle sounded behind her, and a whistle above her, a low soothing whistle and Gina fell asleep, no dreams to wreck her peace, a sleep accompanied by a rocking that was slower and gentler than the motion of the train. Gina fell asleep to a swelling inner cadence, not the clattering outer rhythm of train.
-0. This incident from an actual account from Fells Point, Baltimore, essentially the Jack London Square of that worse city.
-1. Gina Ramona’s story was witnessed by the author on 10/27/2022 on this exact train. Her name is fictional and assigned. Remmy was a real passenger who actually spoke the dialogue assigned above. What Gina saw in the viewing car by night is credited by The Egyptians as the truth, but not necessarily by Herodotus.
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let the world fend for itself
orphan nation
book of nightmares
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the fighting edge
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solo boxing
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night city
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honor among men
within leviathan’s craw
fiction anthology one
the sunset saga complete
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